Caring Dads and Safe Exchange Programs

Program snapshot

Age group: Adult (25-64)

Gender: Male only

Population served: Adult offenders; Families

Topic: Family (domestic) violence/child maltreatment; Recidivism; Violence against women and girls

Setting: Community-based setting; Social services setting

Location: Alberta

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 0

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention; Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

Caring Dads is a 17-week psycho-educational group program for men who have abused or neglected their children or exposed them to abuse of their mothers. Children of these men are often adversely affected by exposure to domestic violence in ways the abusers fail to recognize. In addition to teaching general parenting skills, Caring Dads also addresses controlling behaviours, sense of entitlement, self-centered attitudes, and accountability for past and current abusive behaviour.

Safe Exchange allows families with unsupervised access to their children to safely exchange the children with the ex-partner while avoiding contact, conversation and potential conflict. The program is free and parents are mandated to the program by the courts. One parent drops the child off at the program site where staff provides supervision until the other parent comes to pick up the child. Safe Exchange staff members often play a role in supporting parents, discussing issues of concern and making referrals to other community services for additional support.

Goals

The main goals of the Caring Dads and Safe Exchange programs are:

  • To prevent potential physical/sexual abuse of children, as well as trauma caused by witnessing family violence; 
  • To increase men’s awareness of unhealthy, hurtful, abusive and neglectful fathering behaviors;
  • To improve men’s recognition and prioritization of children’s needs;
  • To increased fathers’ empathy for children’s experiences of maltreatment;
  • To improve fathers’ understanding of child development stages;
  • To improve fathers’ parenting skills including appropriate discipline strategies in families where there has been a history of domestic violence; and
  • To contribute to collaboration among police, children’s services and social service practitioners working with families where domestic abuse has occurred.

Clientele

The appropriate clientele for the Caring Dads program are men who have abused or neglected their children or exposed them to the abuse of their mothers. This intervention targets secondary and tertiary prevention of generational physical and sexual violence and associated crimes such as assault, sexual assault, stalking, abduction, and domestic violence homicide. It also recognizes the correlation between exposure to domestic violence and other social disorders such poor school attachment, mental illness, poor family parental functioning, gang affiliation, and addictions issues, and petty crimes.

Safe Exchange participants are mandated to the program by the courts. One parent drops the child off at the program site where staff provides supervision until the other parent comes to pick up the child. Safe Exchange staff members often play a role in supporting parents, discussing issues of concern and making referrals to other community services for additional support.

Core Components

The Caring Dads program is a psycho-educational group program running once a week for seventeen weeks, and participants must complete 15 sessions in order to graduate. Prior to attending Caring Dads, participants must first attend a John Howard Society anger management group so as to give them the avenue to vent their anger regarding the marital relationship so that when they reach the Caring Dads program they are able to focus more specifically on the children and the impact of the father’s behaviour on their children. The curriculum fills a void in addressing the particular challenges and educational needs of men with histories of domestic violence.

The Safe Exchange program is free and parents are mandated to the program by the courts. One parent drops the child off at the program site where staff provides supervision until the other parent comes to pick up the child. It allows high-conflict parenting situations to be mitigated in the exchange of children.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: Limited information on this topic.
  • Partnerships: Community partners: Providing Assistance, Counselling and Education (P.A.C.E); John Howard Society; Children’s Services; Police; and Courts.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff need to have an in-depth understanding of abusive behaviour and domestic violence. Program staff must be prepared to respond to aggressive behaviour and to have good security in place.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

The Caring Dads and Safe Exchange programs have been implemented in Alberta by Providing Assistance, Counselling and Education (P.A.C.E). The Caring Dads program offered three groups over three years, with a total of 12 fathers graduating from the program. The Safe Exchange program provided service to 16 custodial and 16 non-custodial parents and a total of 23 children. Over the three-year period, the program supervised 495 safe exchanges. In total, 35 children were impacted by the Caring Dads and Safe Exchange programs.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

No information available.

Cost Information

A social return on investment (SROI) has been conducted on the Caring Dads and Safe Exchange programs. The findings from this study have shown the following:

  • The ratio for the Caring Dads and Safe Exchange programs is 2.36:1, indicating that for every dollar invested in the programs, an average of $2.36 in social value was created over the first three years of operation;
  • Value is created for the participants when conflict is reduced, parenting is improved and there is less demand for police, court, justice services, and children’s services interventions; and
  • The programs improve parents’ access to their children, while moderating potential conflict and violence between parents, thus reducing negative impacts on children.

References

Alberta Community Crime Prevention Organizations. (2015). Social Return on Investment (SROI) Case Study: Caring Dads and Safe Exchange Programs. Recipient of Safe Communities Innovation Fund, Government of Alberta. Available from: https://open.alberta.ca/publications/safe-communities-innovation-fund-pilot-project-executive-summaries 

For more information on this program, contact:

Providing Assistance Counselling & Education
Jacquie Aitken                                  
Phone: (780) 539-6692                                   
Email: pacegp@pacegp.ca                                                                         


Record Entry Date - 2018-02-20

Date modified: